It may have been the first half their supporters were hoping for, but it probably was not what they were expecting. Southampton were bright, slick and energetic and deserved their interval lead. They could have scored twice in the first 10 minutes. The Moroccan, Hassan Kachloul, made a neat run through the Wimbledon defence after five minutes, his strong shot directed straight at the goalkeeper, Neil Sullivan.
Carlton Palmer, returning from suspension, provided Southampton with both a calming influence and some much- needed width on the right side of midfield. Southampton would have opened the scoring earlier had Sullivan not produce a fine triple save. Matthew Le Tissier's deep cross was headed down by James Beattie and followed up by Kachloul and then Beattie once more, but Sullivan denied them both.
Egil Ostenstad then scored Southampton's first goal for three games, after 12 minutes. Beattie's flick fell to Ostenstad and he rounded both the keeper and the defender Ben Thatcher before finishing cleanly from a tight angle with his right foot. After the high following their victory over Liverpool last Sunday, Wimbledon were lacklustre; Marcus Gayle's shot from outside the area was one of their few first-half efforts.
Southampton were looking slicker than the visitors and they could have scored a second when Le Tissier found Beattie, but the former Blackburn striker's first touch took him round Sullivan and wide of the goal. His shot from a tight angle then hit the post.
Southampton opened the second half as brightly as they had concluded the first. On 52 minutes, Le Tissier laid the ball across to Palmer who struck the post from 20 yards. Four minutes later a typically extravagant half-volley from Le Tissier was well saved by Sullivan.
Southampton then scored twice within three minutes. From a short corner Le Tissier's cross was headed in by Kachloul. Ostenstad then headed the third after confusion in the Wimbledon defence.
With 15 minutes to go Wimbledon scored a consolation goal through a Michael Hughes cross turned in by Gayle.
Dave Jones, the Southampton manager, said: "There's a long way to go. We've worked hard and created chances. When you see the passing and movements like we have today and the ball goes in, it's a nice feeling. It was us that put ourselves in this mess and it's only us that can get us out of it."
His Wimbledon counterpart, Joe Kinnear, admitted that "Southampton were by far the better side - their front two players caused us far more trouble than any other strikers this season. They were convincing winners. Overall it was a disappointing performance."Reuse content